Colorado Pot Industry Bans Additive Linked to Vaping Illness

Vaping pre-filled THC cartridges is a convenient way to consume, but users now worry about their safety.
Jacqueline Collins
Vaping pre-filled THC cartridges is a convenient way to consume, but users now worry about their safety.
Colorado has banned the state's marijuana industry from adding vitamin E acetate, the chemical additive linked to vaping illnesses by federal health officials, to products meant for inhalation.

On November 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a potential culprit behind the recent vaping illnesses: vitamin E acetate. However, Colorado's Marijuana Enforcement Division had already prohibited the additive as an ingredient days earlier, and also banned two more ingredients with connections to short- and long-term health issues. In addition to vitamin E acetate, polyethylene glycol (PEG) and medium chain triglycerides (MCT oil) are now ruled out for marijuana products meant for inhalation.

The new MED rules, announced November 5, take effect on January 1, 2020, but have been proposed and discussed at rulemaking meetings over the fall.

Over the past several months, more than 2,000 people nationwide have have been hospitalized and at least 39 have died because of lung illnesses connected to vaporizer products. At least one of those deaths and a handful of hospital visits have happened in Colorado. Both marijuana and nicotine products have been linked to cases in this state; no specific vaping product has been named in connection with the Colorado death.

The vast majority of users who became sick from marijuana vaping products were using black-market cartridges with traces of harmful pesticides and additives, though at least one death was reportedly connected to a legal product purchased from a dispensary in Oregon.

A chemical additive originally used in lotions and skin creams, vitamin E acetate has been found in black-market vaping cartridges, where it's been used to prevent viscosity. Although it was suggested as playing a role in the illnesses early on, the CDC was careful not to officially link the chemical to the illnesses. That changed on November 8, when CDC Deputy Director Anne Schucha called vitamin E “one very strong culprit of concern" after samples taken from 29 patients in ten states showed “direct evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury within the lungs.”

However, Schucha then added this in announcing the findings: “Identifying a collection of information that points to vitamin E acetate as a concern for lung pathology doesn’t mean that there are not other components causing lung harm.”